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Hoeven: Senate Ag Committee Approves Strong Farm Bill
North Dakota Ag Connection - 06/14/2018

Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Wednesoday said that the Senate Agriculture Committee has passed the Senate farm bill, which will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Hoeven secured approval for his provisions, including:

- Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) Program: Uses Hoeven's pilot program to improve flexibility and funding for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) Program, to prioritize Risk Management Agency (RMA) data over National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data to determine yields.

- Access to Capital for Farmers and Ranchers: Increases the FSA Guaranteed Operation and Ownership Loans from $1.39 million to $1.75 million, and Direct Operating from $300,000 to $400,000 and Ownership Loans from $300,000 to $600,000.

- Improving Wetlands Provisions in the Conservation Title: Hoeven included three amendments to make wetlands regulations in the conservation title more farmer friendly.

o Requires the USDA, within 180 days of passage of the farm bill, to define minimal effect exemptions on a regional basis.

o Directs the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to report the number of wetland acres in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that have been delineated and are less than 1 acre.

o Improves the quality of the wetland appeals process by requiring NRCS to conduct a site visit with the participant after an appeal has been filed.

- Prairie Dog Management: Requires the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a report on prairie dogs and act upon their finding within one year of the report's completion to help address prairie dog management on Forest Service lands.

- Support for Native American Producers and Communities: Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, secured amendments to support Native American priorities, including:

o Promoting Trade for Tribal Producers: Promotes greater participation of tribal producers on international trade missions.

o Tribal College and Universities (TCUs) Access to USDA Grants: Allows TCUs to access the Children, Youth and Families at Risk and Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Programs. Currently, all land grant institutions, except TCUs, have access to these competitive grant programs.

"The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a strong farm bill that will provide producers with the tools they need to succeed," said Hoeven. "That includes strong crop insurance, improvements to the ARC program and strong support for agriculture research. The committee also approved my amendments to provide farmers and ranchers with access to more capital, as well as to make improvements to help make the wetland conservation title more farmer friendly. The bill had strong support in committee and we look forward to approving it through the full Senate as quickly as possible."

In addition to the Hoeven amendments approved today, the senator worked to include the following priorities in the underlying bill:

Strong Crop Insurance -- Maintains strong crop insurance, which is the primary risk management tool for many producers.

Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) -- Hoeven is working to ensure that both programs work for producers and provide additional flexibility. To improve the ARC program, the bill prioritizes Risk Management Agency (RMA) data over National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data to determine yields. This follows the Hoeven pilot program to improve the fairness of ARC payment calculations. USDA implemented Hoeven's pilot program in January.

Sugar Policy -- Extends the sugar policy in a bipartisan manner, ensuring that American producers have a level playing field in the world sugar market.

Agriculture Research -- Provides strong support for agricultural research, like the work done at North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Extension Service, to enhance crop genetics and production.

Water Bank Program -- Increases the authorization for the Hoeven Water Bank Program to $5 million. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has worked to fund the program, which provides compensation for farmers and landowners for flooded land through 10-year, voluntary conservation agreements.

Increasing Markets for Agriculture -- Helps to create, expand and maintain foreign markets for U.S. agriculture products. The bill consolidates the Market Access Program (MAP), Foreign Market Development (FMD), Emerging Market Program (EMP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) under one export umbrella to provide producers with continued access to export programs.

Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank -- Authorizes a new Animal Disease and Disaster Response Program and Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine bank, which Hoeven has advocated for, to help address risks to animal health, livestock export markets and industry economic stability.

Addressing Substance Abuse in Rural Communities -- Includes legislation Hoeven is sponsoring with Senator Joe Donnelly to help rural communities combat the opioid abuse epidemic. The legislation directs the USDA Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grants Program to give priority to applicants in rural communities that would use the grants for substance abuse education, treatment and prevention efforts.

CROPS for Indian Country Act -- Includes provisions from Hoeven's Cultivating Resources, Opportunities, Prosperity and Sustainability (CROPS) for Indian Country Act, bipartisan legislation that would strengthen tribal self-governance for USDA programs and promote agribusiness opportunities for Native American farmers, ranchers and communities.

The senator has been working to craft a strong farm bill for North Dakota producers. He hosted USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in North Dakota to hear directly from the state's producers about their priorities for the farm bill and has also gathered input from the state's farmers and ranchers at roundtable meetings.

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